Retired F1 champion Nico Rosberg aims for investment victory with impact technology

Nico Rosberg is immersing himself—and some of his fortune—in the world of “impact technologies.” 

Nico Rosberg is immersing himself—and some of his fortune—in the world of “impact technologies.”

Elon Musk and Warren Buffett might seem an unlikely pair, given the former’s unpredictability and the latter’s midwestern sobriety.

But books featuring the chairmen of Tesla Inc. and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. are on the reading list of 2016 Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg.

Since retiring after his big win, the son of Finnish racing legend Keke Rosberg has embarked on a crash course in world-changing technologies, and how to invest in them.

Rosberg, who turned 33 last week, remains active in the racing world and on his popular YouTube vlog, but the intense focus he developed as a driver is now directed at startups. While he cites Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor as his guide for investing wisdom, his portfolio ventures far afield to companies such as Lyft, What3words and Musk’s SpaceX.

The study of “impact technologies,” which Rosberg defines as technologies that will “change the world for the better without taking anything away from the present,” has led him to explore companies around the globe, from Silicon Valley to China.

Rosberg spoke about his unusual transition from ultimate gearhead to enlightened investor at a Young Successors Program recently held by UBS Group AG in New York for the adult children of the bank’s ultra-wealthy clients. Bloomberg caught up with him afterwards. Comments have been edited and condensed.

Rosberg states that he loves Musk for “how he just doesn’t care, how he just does his own thing and what he wants to do and believes and just pulls through. Even if it’s too early, he just does it, and he creates such a momentum.”

“He has managed to force the entire car industry to rush into mobility [digital ride-hailing, ride-sharing services, autonomous driving] because everybody got so scared that he was going to take all the business away. What an achievement that is in itself and what an impact that’s going to have on our world, forcing the entire car world to go electric. That’s just one thing. Then there’s space as well, where he might also be able to have a huge impact.”

What kind of a tech network have you built up?

It’s the big European VCs, especially, some from Germany, and then the individuals in those groups. Formula One has been a great door opener, and I’ve tried to maximize that. It’s more difficult in America, because Formula One is stronger elsewhere. I lack the skills in analysis now, but I have trust in the people in my network and I can co-invest.

Have you been back to Silicon Valley?

No, I’ve been focusing more on Europe, actually. Europe needs a push. [Laughs.] It’s behind America and behind China—in everything but especially in mobility, even though the world’s leading auto manufacturers are in Europe. Imagine that. It’s crazy.

What is your risk tolerance?

I’m very conservative. I would never touch my capital, which I just want to generate income. I want it to be that way for my kids. So I’ve done a lot of real estate stuff, focusing on Monaco, really. Just one property in Monaco is such a big value. I get a net 3 percent yield on some properties. It’s quite safe.

Do you take sustainability into account when you look at business models?

There is a sustainability revolution now happening, it’s been starting for a long time, but now it will really kick off as prices come down. Mobility is now just coming to the break-even price with petrol and cars, and the same with solar power—it is not there yet but it is getting there, and it is going to take off as soon as that happens.